Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Breakdancing makes the Olympics - but is it sport?

With all due respect to practitioners, the announcement that breakdancing is to be an Olympic sport from Paris 2024 onwards is probably not going to rehabilitate the Olympics in the eyes of most people.

The Olympics brand has taken a big hit in recent years, what with drug scandals, allegations of bribery and financial irregularities, and a general image of corruption and sleaziness. Adding in breakdancing (or "breaking" as they insist on calling it, in the belief that they are somehow being more "authentic"), along with skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing, while paring back the plethora of wrestling and boxing categories, isn't going to do anything to help that.

To be fair, that is not the stated aim of the International Olympic Committee. They see this as a move towards luring a younger audience to their 4-yearly spectacle, and making it more "relevant", i.e. it is, like everything else the IOC does these days, all about the money. Whether these changes will indeed lure in millions of surfer dudes, skateboard dudettes and "urban" (i.e. black) dance aficionados is anyone's guess, but there are also other considerations at play here.

Like the perennial heart-searching that goes on in the visual arts world ("but is it art?"), many people will be asking "but is it sport?" Hell, I would think that many breakdancers will be asking the same thing, having laboured under the misapprehension for decades that dancing is an artform. Coincidentally, this comes just a day after a chess Grand Master referred to chess as a "sport" during an interview I watched. 

Or is it just further distancing the modern Olympics from the simple and honest ideals that originally inspired it? Is it turning yet further into an entertainment spectacular or a nationalist gong show or a cynical commercial enterprise?

No comments: